Students With Disabilities Illegally Denied Special Education

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AUSTIN – The Texas Education Agency (TEA) today received a final monitoring report from the U.S. Department of Education with its findings on the delivery of special education services in the state. That's what the U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday, after a 15-month investigation.

Here's what happened in Texas, and why it matters. Parent and special education advocacy group representatives will play an ongoing integral role in helping shape this plan, as well as all efforts of the agency in the years ahead. Districts could be penalized if they went over that rate.

Meanwhile, Texas fired state special education director Laurie Kash in November, following her filing a federal complaint over the education agency's having awarding a now-cancelled, no-bid contract to a company tasked with analyzing student data before she was hired.

The policies of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) drew federal scrutiny after a 2016 investigation by the Houston Chronicle newspaper.

Texas put the 8.5 percent benchmark into place in 2004 and got rid of it just past year, after a 2016 investigation in the Houston Chronicle brought it to light. The policy saved the state agency billions of dollars but denied education services to children with autism, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, epilepsy, mental illnesses, speech impediments, traumatic brain injuries, blindness and deafness, the newspaper said. Since then enrollment has surged.

In response, Gov. Greg Abbott has given TEA seven days to put together an action plan to reform special education.

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Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said in a statement that he shared Abbott's urgency and "commitment to doing what's right for special education students in our public schools".

The news comes as TEA remains mired in controversy over a contract that was supposed to help the state fix some of its problems in special education.

Our reporting in Florida and in IN, for example, has shown that many parents have trouble accessing that free, appropriate public education.

In addition, several states, including California, Massachussetts and New Jersey, use a census-based funding system, which assumes special education students are distributed uniformly across districts. He expressed that more action needs to take place to protect the needs of the students and to make certain they are getting the education they deserve. Affected students couldn't get assistance such as therapy or extra instruction for learning disabilities. But the vacancy means Texas will have no one in a top position as it sets about overhauling special education services. And DeVos has repeatedly refused to say that she would require private schools to serve everyone.

The report concluded that Texas ran afoul of federal law by failing to locate students in need of special education, failing to ensure free public education was made available to children with disabilities and failing to adequately supervise and monitor the state's special education program.

Bill Zeeble, an education reporter at member station KERA in Dallas, assisted with reporting for this story.

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